Celebrating 25 years of Burton/Elfman collaborations

Posted by · 5:20 pm · October 1st, 2010

In the “sign me up now, please” category today is a recently announced boxed set of Danny Elfman’s music collaborations with filmmaker Tim Burton.  I first heard about the limited edition set via the New York Times in a piece that went up on the Arts Beat blog yesterday.  It featured a video with Burton and Elfman discussing the monumental “Batman” score — talk about grabbing my attention.

Anyone who knows me knows what role that 1989 superhero extravaganza played in my film-going youth.  But the idea that there might be some extra, never-before-heard material waiting in a vault somewhere?  Giddiness.  Pure giddiness.

But it’s not just “Batman” stuff.  The set celebrates “the 25th anniversary of the ingenious collaboration” between the two singular artists, reads a press release that went out today.   “[The] numbered box set of 1000…collects expansions of the 13 original scores that Elfman has composed for Burton’s iconic films” and is “a newly produced library of 16 CDs each packaged with artwork by Burton, adding up to more than 19 hours of music.”  Wow.

In that Arts Beat piece, Elfman had some lovely insights on the work he’s put together for and with Burton over the last two and a half decades.  Of particular interest to me, of course:

It’s a mixed bag of work tapes, demos, and in those demos, ideas that didn’t make it into movies. There’s a whole stretch of a “Batman” work tape, of “Batman” music that never made it into the movie. On the one hand, that was cool for me to listen to. I’d forgotten I had all these ideas that never survived. On the other hand, I was horrified that 20 years ago, demos sounded really bad. I’m in the middle of writing this huge disclaimer, trying to explain what a work tape is, and the difference of what I was working with 20 years ago. Between “Beetlejuice” and “Alice in Wonderland,” you can hear, oh, O.K., big difference.

According to the release, additional highlights include:

Among the 19 hours of music are seven hours of previously unreleased music including such rarities as additional masters, cut songs, song and score demos, work tapes, orchestra-only song mixes, and foreign-language songs.

Danse Macabre: 25 Years of Danny Elfman and Tim Burton: A meticulously researched, lavishly illustrated 250+ page fine linen-wrapped hardbound book, entitled with gold foil stamping, and featuring a foreword by Johnny Depp. The book also includes rare photos, stories, and interviews from the cast and crew behind the scenes of this classic music — from the early days of Elfman’s band Oingo Boingo to the recent blockbuster film Alice in Wonderland. Interviewed are such collaborators and peers as Guillermo Del Toro, Phillip Glass, Paul Haggis, James Newton Howard, Tom Jones, Michael Keaton, Ang Lee, Errol Morris, Thomas Newman, Catherine O’Hara, Jon Peters, Paul Reubens, David Rockwell, Scott Rudin, Marc Shaiman, Howard Shore, Twyla Tharp, Gus Van Sant, and Richard Zanuck. This comprehensive 10″x10″ keepsake book is written by acclaimed film-music journalist Jeff Bond and designed by Grammy Award winning designer Matt Taylor.

An hour-long exclusive, newly filmed DVD featuring an extended conversation between Burton and Elfman as they reflect on their quarter-century collaboration.

As a collectible created exclusively for this treasure box of music, a distinctive Skeleton Key USB Flash Drive has been designed—inspired by the art of Tim Burton. A pull of the key unlocks a USB drive loaded with MP3s of the entire contents of this Limited-Edition Music Box. From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure through Alice In Wonderland, it’s all there, including all the bonus tracks, demos, work tapes, and other rarities.

Newly created liner notes by Elfman discussing each expanded score and their bonus material of additional masters, song and score demos, work tapes, orchestra-only song mixes, and foreign language versions.

A collection of music as unique as Elfman’s for the films of Tim Burton needed to be housed in something equally special, wondrous, and whimsical. Designed to evoke a treasure chest found in a mysterious attic, The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box is a work of art in itself. Grammy-winning designer Matt Taylor has transformed previously unseen art by Burton and crafted a large scale, tin-covered music box complete with an embedded music chip playing “The Music Box Suite” arranged and performed by Elfman specifically for this historic collection. And to literally top it all off, with a flip of the lid, a delightful working zoetrope is revealed featuring strips of art and photos by Burton and Elfman that come to animated life with a spin.

The set will be released in December but it is available for pre-order now at BurtonElfman.com at a whopping 500 bucks.  I had to spring for one.  Here’s a promotional video from the site:

And by the way, as the release states, a bunch of Burton’s original artwork accompanies each element of the set. So I might as well put this up:

[Photo: Ask Men]

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17 responses so far

  • 1 10-01-2010 at 5:38 pm

    Carson Dyle said...

    Thing is… Burton’s two best films are the ones that weren’t scored by Elfman…

    I’ve been hugely unimpressed with 21st Century Elfman, but his late 80s/early 90s stuff is indeed impressive. Batman certainly deserved an Oscar nom. Arguably Edward Scissorhands too.

  • 2 10-01-2010 at 5:41 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Would it be totally wrong and stupid for Chris Nolan to use Elfman’s Batman theme at, like, the end of Batman 3? Just like the end of Burton’s Batman. Because I think Nolan should do this.


  • 3 10-01-2010 at 5:51 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gittes: For shits and giggles I got together with a friend after “Batman Begins” was released and we mixed the two scores together. Sounded awesome.

    Carson: Good on you if you think “Ed Wood” is one of Burton’s best. I would agree (though I tend to think “Edward Scissorhands” is tops). But I’m a bit surprised anyone would put “Sweeney Todd” up so high, unless you’re just not a very big fan in general. And it’s a bit misleading to lump something that used Sondheim by necessity as ammunition in a “Burton’s two best films are the ones that weren’t scored by Elfman” argument, ya know?

  • 4 10-01-2010 at 5:53 pm

    Graysmith said...

    That’s really cool, but holy shit, $500?! No matter how much exclusive stuff is included I could never justify paying that much for something like this, and I LOVE Burton/Elfman.

  • 5 10-01-2010 at 5:55 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I probably wouldn’t if there wasn’t such a limited number of sets.

  • 6 10-01-2010 at 6:26 pm

    Jordan said...

    Ugh… Danny Elfman’s scores for Burton movies all sound the same, save for Big Fish. That parody video by collegehumor.com on Tim Burton’s movies got it so right. Danny Elfman scores sound like little children singing “La la la la la” followed by a few “Bum bum bums” added in for good measure. Not a fan at all.

  • 7 10-01-2010 at 6:34 pm

    Carson Dyle said...

    Kris: I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s the absence of Elfman that makes Ed Wood and Sweeney Todd great (yes, great), I just find it amusing, since the Burton/Elfman collaboration is one of the most prominent modern director/composer collaborations.

    I am a fan of specific Burton works, but not others. I think he’s at his best when he goes somewhere unexpected, and at his absolute worst when he settles into repetition. Sweeney Todd, I’d submit, is the best film musical of the past 10, maybe 20 or 30 years, and the most impeccably acted and directed film in Burton’s canon outside of Ed Wood. Apart from those two, though, Batman Returns is also a personal favourite.

  • 8 10-01-2010 at 6:36 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Jordan: Reductive.

  • 9 10-01-2010 at 6:41 pm

    Mr. F said...

    “I want it, oh, I want it
    Oh, I want it for my own”

    Seriously, I want it, but $500 is way out of my price range

  • 10 10-01-2010 at 8:09 pm

    Loyal said...

    I’m surprised they didn’t give you one for free Kris.

  • 11 10-01-2010 at 8:21 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’m not that much of a playa.

  • 12 10-01-2010 at 10:00 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Burton also played a big role in me getting into film. Him and then David Fincher were pretty much my path.

    Danny Elfman’s music is some of the best from the two Batmans, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands , Men in Black, MI1.

    Although I am wondering what has he done lately?

  • 13 10-01-2010 at 10:40 pm

    Dan said...

    Ah man, 500 bucks!???

  • 14 10-02-2010 at 1:11 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Kris, did you also buy the newly released 2-disc set from Batman?

  • 15 10-02-2010 at 10:17 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I bought it at Comic-Con, yeah. If we’re talking about the same thing. (Every music cue.)

  • 16 10-03-2010 at 10:02 pm

    MattD said...

    @Jonathan & @Kris: The LaLaLand 2-disc Bat release is pretty great, so I’m hoping the rumor that they’re working on Batman Returns pans out (seems like it will, based on the lesser amount of material it seems to have on the Buton/Elfman set).

    @Matthew S: He composed 4 films last year, between 3 and 5 this year, and he’s working on a stage musical about Houdini.

    I would LOVE to get the Burton/Elfman set, but I just can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money, no matter how much I love Elfman’s body of work or the fancy design the set has.

  • 17 12-13-2010 at 5:21 pm

    Jackie P said...

    word on the street is that they are releasing more than the 500 that originally sold out. The first 500 get autographed elfman cds, lucky lucky